Philip Shapiro from Johannesburg, South Africa wrote:
A question about Jonah. Jonah was commanded to prophesy to the Assyrians. The Malbim explains that all prophecy is for the benefit of Israel, and that Jonahs prophecy to the Assyrians was in fact for the benefit of Israel that since the Assyrians were destined to be the "rod of chastisement" for Israel, they had to be rebuked to repent before they could chastise Israel.
How does one answer the following question? The Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Greeks and the Romans did not receive Jewish prophets to rebuke them to repentance before they afflicted Israel. And it is said that Titus was a totally wicked man. Why did he not have to repent before destroying the Second Temple?
Dear Philip Shapiro,
According to the Malbim, the reason the Assyrians had to repent is that otherwise they would have been completely destroyed due to their sins, and then they could not have been the instrument to punish the Jewish people. (This, says the Malbim, explains Yonahs reluctance to rebuke them; since by doing so, he enabled them to survive and become the "rod of punishment" against the Jews.) Even though Titus himself and the nations you mentioned were evil, they were apparently not yet deserving of total destruction.
By the way, the Egyptians did indeed receive rebuke from Jewish prophets: Moshe and Aharon repeatedly warned Pharaoh of the impending plagues. Furthermore, Greece and Rome subjugated the Jews after the period of prophecy had already ended.